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Taoiseach pays tribute to crew on diverted flight, says it's unfortunate he missed Biden reception

The Taoiseach missed a reception dinner hosted by US President Joe Biden last night.

'These things happen... no big deal', says the Taoiseach about his Aer Lingus flight to New York having to turn back to Dublin Airport due to a bird strike.
'These things happen... no big deal', says the Taoiseach about his Aer Lingus flight to New York having to turn back to Dublin Airport due to a bird strike.
Image: The Journal

Christina Finn reports from New York: 

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has paid tribute to the captain and crew of his Aer Lingus flight which had to be diverted back to Dublin yesterday evening. 

The airline said in a statement that as a result of bird strike, the plane from Dublin to New York was forced to return to the airport. 

The Taoiseach managed to catch a later flight, but as a result of the delay missed a reception dinner for world leaders, which US President Joe Biden was also attending. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who did attend the event at the American Natural History Museum, met the US president last night. 

Biden hosted reception for world leaders

When asked if he was disappointed that, yet again, he missed out on meeting the US president, Martin said:

“There was never going to be a formal meeting this week but last night there was a reception that was hosted by President Biden.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t make that but I did meet him in London at the funeral and we meet at a number of international gatherings. Today’s hectic, we’ll see how things transpire.”

When asked if there was a possibility he might meet the president today on the fringes of UN events taking place in New York, he said:

“I don’t anticipate that today, I mean there’s a hectic schedule of meetings all round with all of the leaders.”

Speaking about the plane being diverted back to Dublin Airport, the Taoiseach said:

“These things happen. I understand birds got into the engine, that can happen… no big deal.”

He said Aer Lingus secured an alternative aircraft and “fair play to Aer Lingus on this occasion, to the pilot and crew. who managed the situation professionally and calmly”.

Government jet

Following yesterday’s incident, the Taoiseach was asked today if consideration should be given to another Irish Government jet being purchased. 

The current jet that the State owns operates between Dublin and Brussels and brings ministers and the Taoiseach to London on occasion. 

Martin said it is “very efficient and effective: in terms of getting Government ministers to meetings and “not wasting time”. 

“That jet has had its challenges as well, put it that way,” he said, adding that it is something the Irish Air Corps and the Department of Defence are reviewing.

However, he said transatlantic travel has never been done by Government jet, he said.

A Government spokesperson confirmed in June that a new Government jet may have to be bought as the current plane is “nearing the end of its natural life”. 

The Learjet has been out of action for repair in recent months and has been unavailable for 35% of the year to date.

The Taoiseach has had to use the CASA maritime patrol aircraft and commercial flights for some trips. 

The Taoiseach has on occasion been left stranded in Brussels after an Air Corps aircraft scheduled to fly him home went out of service at the last minute.

“All options are on the table” such as the possibility of purchasing a new plane or leasing a new jet, said the spokesperson, who acknowledged that there has been issues with the current jet. 

An international aviation consultancy has previously advised Government that the most viable short term solution to the ailing government jet service is to rent private jets. 

The Journal previously revealed that discussions were at an advanced stage on the merits of purchasing or leasing a replacement for the ailing Government jet.

Christina will be reporting from the UN throughout the week. You can follow her updates on Twitter @christinafinn8

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